HO CHI MINH CITY | Les Rives Authentic River Experience run several tours in Ho Chi Minh City, aimed at providing those on the tour with an authentic experience. We’re normally wary of tours, preferring to venture off ourselves, so when we find a tour that we think is worth checking out, we’re happy to share our experience. One of the tours that Les Rives run is the Mekong Delta Tour, and it is this tour that we were invited to experience when we most recently visited Ho Chi Minh City to celebrate the launch of direct Jetstar flights between Melbourne/Sydney and Ho Chi Minh City.
The Mekong Delta is where the Mekong River approaches and empties into the sea through a network of of rivers, swamps and islands, and is the lifeblood of Vietnam. It’s home to 1,000 different animal species, a means of transportation, and an important part of Vietnam’s agricultural and fishery industries. It’s a part of Vietnam we’ve wanted to explore before, but hadn’t until now.
The Les Rives Mekong Delta Tour takes around eight to nine hours, and includes several stops and activities. The day starts at Ho Chi Minh City pier, where we met our tour guide and boat driver, and set off on our adventure. Snacks, drinks, and fresh fruit are served as the boat travels through the rapidly developing urbanised part of the delta. Of particular interest are the shanty houses that line the banks of the Mekong River, which are slowly making way for luxury office and residential developments. We were advised that by 2020, none of these houses will remain.
Leaving the hustle and bustle of the city centre, the boat stops at the ornate, overwater Tuong Van Pagoda. It’s interesting, calming, and peaceful to walk through the Buddhist temple here, and see the monks go about their every day lives. Our tour guide was very helpful in answering any questions we might have had. You probably won’t get much out of this part of the trip if you’ve travelled through Asia and visited Buddhist temples before, but for someone who hasn’t, it provides a good introduction.
Soon after, we reached the Mekong Delta itself, where the Mekong River split into 9 tributaries. This area is known as the Delta of Nine Dragons, one for each tributaries. As we ventured through the canals of the Thu Thua area, the scenery continued to change. It’s hard to believe that you’re still so close to Ho Chi Minh City when surrounded by lush green foliage, calm, and not a building in sight. As the boat pulled to a stop, we reached a farm. A bit of a walk through the farm leads to a traditional farmhouse, where you get to meet the family who lives here, along with their 60kg python!
After this, and a smaller row boat ride through some tiny canals, the speedboat moves on to the next stop, which features several attractions. The most interesting for us was the local street market, where we really got a feel for every day life in this part of the world, and saw all kinds of produce and other items being sold, including lots of seafood caught fresh from the Delta. There’s also an orphanage run by Buddhist monks where you get to see a typical classroom and meet some of the children studying at the school there. Following this is another temple, the colourful Cao Dai Temple. If you’re lucky enough, as we were, you’ll be able to see the monks performing a traditional ceremony.
Finally, the boat makes a stop at a pagoda, where you’re treated to lunch and some strong home distilled alcoholic spirits. This was the most relaxing part of the tour for us, as we chilled out enjoying our fresh coconut juice straight from the locally grown coconuts. The meal itself was satisfying, but it’s not amongst the best food you’ll eat in Ho Chi Minh City – it’s very much playing it safe for foreigners.
Overall we really enjoyed our time spent on the Les Rives Mekong Delta Tour. Apart from the food at the lunch stop, which will appeal to the average punter but disappoint any foodies out there, there’s a lot to like about this tour. There’s a lot of variety, and our tour guide was very knowledgeable. It’s a good way to take in a lot of things in a day that you might not otherwise have the chance to if you try and do it all solo.